Ian is the author of a new book about Barack Obama (details below). – promoted by Rosi
The Republican party claims that it wants to reduce government spending on poverty-related initiatives in large part because of their concern that these programs breed dependence. This is a very important argument for them because it allows them to call for these cuts while also claiming that they “care” about economically vulnerable people.
See, these Republican cuts will actually “help” the economically vulnerable, whereas the programs themselves “hurt” those who receive the benefits they provide by sapping the recipients’ independent spirit (because all they really need to find a job or to get through school without a Pell grant, for example, is a bit sturdier spirit).
On April 10, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie laid out the essential Republican view on the matter of paternalism and, although he didn’t use the word directly, dependence in a speech at the George W. Bush Institute Conference on Taxes and Economic Growth.
“I think it’s really simple. It’s because government’s now telling them ‘stop dreaming, stop striving, we’ll take care of you.’ We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society.”
Much more, below the fold.
“That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally because when the American people no longer believe that this a place where only their willingness to work hard … determines their success in life then we’ll have a bunch of people sittin’ on a couch waiting for their next government check.”
Clearly, the conservative vision is one in which every person is able to simply call upon their will in order to achieve “success in life.” Conservatives believe that the safety net only saps that ability. In addition to the broader reasons why this belief is incorrect, Christie ignores the fact that, since the 1996 welfare reforms (the merits of which are a separate debate for another diary), non-disabled people can no longer simply collect a government check for all that long.
Here’s another fundamental flaw in Republican thinking on this matter: If Republicans are worried about people losing their “willingness to work hard” because they are “sittin’ on a couch” waiting for a check, then how is dependence on charity any worse than dependence on government?
Given that, Republicans must be against charity too, right? Or at least the kind of charity that provides direct assistance to people in need. Charitable help for people also encourages “dependence” just as does government, right?
Now, we Democrats don’t view this issue the same way as Republicans to begin with, so we neither oppose charity nor well-structured government programs to assist the economically vulnerable. We believe that such help is necessary because any of us, including Americans who are, in Christie’s words, “willing to work hard” might find themselves in difficult straits at times. We know that people in our communities can receive help from government and yet still “strive” for success, and even achieve great success.
I’d like to understand, however, from a conservative Republican perspective, how dependence on a charity is somehow better than dependence on government. And if charity is just another thing sapping people’s will, how long is it going to be before Republicans start attacking charity? Stay tuned.
PS-Sorry I’ve been away from Blue Jersey so long. Since this is a New Jersey centric diary, and I wanted to promote Blue Jersey on Daily Kos, I cross-posted here. I’ve also posted this at Daily Kos. Also, my book Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity comes out in July.